This was the most fun I’ve ever had since I got into tea.
I had been wanting a Chili-Chocolate black tea for two years ever since TG discontinued theirs. There are others out there-but many are chais (which I don’t want), and some are not vegan and others I’m just not sure about the ingredients.
Enter Stacy, of Butiki Teas, who offered to do a vegan custom blend for me. Because the teas and other ingredients were things that she normally had on hand, she was able to give me some great prices and smaller amounts-less than $4 an ounce for this blend. In fact, it was even cheaper because the deal was for 2 ounces each but she wound up with 2.5 ounces on one blend and almost 3 ounces on the other blend. I’ve paid the same or more for blends that weren’t custom made with lots of personal attention.
Basically, Stacy and I exchanged several messages-she asked what I was looking for in a custom blend and she offered suggestions on bases and ingredients. She also asked for any suggestions I might have. It really felt like a collaboration. Like maybe Larry David was taking your suggestions and writing a Seinfeld for you. After settling on the bases, ingredients and spice-sweetness levels she went to work.
Every few days I would get an update from Stacy-when she blended, when she tasted, additional blending, settling, etc. She even sent me a pic of one of the teas in progress-so exciting! She did all this on her own-not once did I ever have to ask her how things were going-she was SO conscientious. When the teas were done, I even got to name them-it was so cool to see my tea names on the distinctive Butiki Teas labels!
I probably should have let the teas settle a bit, but, they arrived Saturday and it was raining all day, so I couldn’t wait.
This tea has a Kundaly (Nilgiri) base and is loaded with mini-chocolate chips and chili strips hand-grated by Stacy. I couldn’t smell the chili too well so I went with 1.5 teaspoons of dry leaf for an 8-10 ounce cup (you could just use 1 tsp for less heat). The liquor brews and orangish-reddish color and is closer to translucent than opaque.
You can drink this straight, but I feel that a teaspoon or so of brown crystal sugar (rock sugar) brings out the chocolate flavor better and really completes the chili-chocolate fusion. On the sip, I first taste a little chocolate on the tip of my tongue, followed quickly by spicy tingling in the sides, eventually lingering in the back of my throat after the swallow. With the rock sugar, the chocolate taste is there until the swallow. The tea blends in perfectly with everything. At first, I thought the 1.5 teaspoons was a bit too spicy for me-which is not Stacy’s fault because I told her I’d rather have too spicy than not spicy enough. Now, I am getting used to the 1.5 teaspoons and loving the heat. It’s not so hot that you would need to drink something else or eat something to tone it down. However, you might not want to sip too fast as it cools because of the lingering heat. It might not be a bad idea to reduce the spice here 10% or so, but not too much. It’s still good and spicy with just one teaspoon-but it will more likely need a teaspoon of sweetener. Still, 15 calories of sweetener is better than a 300 calorie chili-chocolate bar!
I’m really happy to have Chili-Chocolate tea again and I hope the weather cools down soon because it seems such a great drink for the fall and winter-maybe with a touch of soymilk and some vegan marshmallows.
Working with Stacy has been a great experience-professional, friendly, and responsive. If you have an idea for a tea that no one has, consider asking Stacy about a custom blend. She’s a mad tea-ologist who loves to experiment! She also will try to work within your budget-she won’t tell you that you need a $15 an ounce tea for a base. It could be a great gift idea for a loved one as well. Thanks, Stacy for all your hard work! Hope to do another custom blend in the future.
I can’t really separate the tea from the experience because of the personal service. The tea is really great and the service is outstanding.